Police Reforms

September 2, 1966

Report Outline
Problems of Big-City Police Departments
Evolution of Modern Police Protection
Advances in Police Science and Practice

Problems of Big-City Police Departments

The policeman's LOT is unhappier today than Gilbert and Sullivan could possibly have imagined. Low pay, long and irregular hours, and hazardous working conditions have characterized police duty from the beginning. Despite these drawbacks, the man in blue could usually count on the respect, if not always the affection, of the people whose lives and property he was paid to safeguard. Now, in contrast, the policeman all too often finds himself the target of oral or physical abuse. In big-city Negro ghettos, he is likely to be looked upon as a hated symbol of the “white power structure”—even if he happens to be a Negro himself.

Recent Supreme Court decisions aimed to protect the rights of criminal suspects are still another source of police frustration. As viewed from the station house, the decisions appear to give the lawless an unfair advantage over the law enforcement officer. Moreover, disrespect for law, reflected in the steadily rising crime rate, seems constantly to be growing. For these and other reasons, numerous career policemen have concluded that they cannot perform their duties effectively and have resigned from the force to take other jobs.

Difficulty of Recruiting Enough Qualified Men

The problem of resignations is compounded by the difficulty most police departments have in recruiting qualified young patrolmen. A survey in the summer of 1965 by the National League of Cities' Department of Urban Studies painted a bleak picture of the nationwide police manpower shortage. Of 284 departments studied, no fewer than 186 were operating below authorized strength. In addition, 79 of the 98 departments at full authorized strength reported that they needed more men. Altogether, the 284 departments were, on the average, 5 per cent below authorized strength and 10 per cent below preferred strength.

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